Got a kid who only eats chips and nuggets and worried about what they’ll eat in Thailand?
Don’t worry; been there, done that. Even the fussiest of little eaters, you’ll be able to find some fallback options to feed the picky eater who isn’t willing to experiment beyond their usual dishes.
I wrote a detailed guide to travelling with picky eaters on my global family travel blog, but I think Phuket is one of those particular locations where parents might have concerns.
Yes, we LOVE our Thai food! When choosing special dinners at ‘home,’ we invariably choose our favourite Thai restaurant, and two of our three kids have discovered their favourite local Thai dishes. We crave a sitting at our favourite beach bars even when we’re not in Phuket!
Then there’s the picky one.
The one who scrunchies his nose when it’s time to pick a dining venue; nervously starts fidgeting, and the moaning commences.
Helping you navigate Thai menus with your fussiest or unadventurous eater, we’ll walk you through our fall-back menu orders in Thailand, plus extra tips to help you navigate this often contentious issue for kids ouside their comfort zone.
What to Order A Picky Child in Phuket
Rest assured, while almost any Thai restaurant can serve you Pad Thai, stir-fried rice and noodles, they almost certainly have a “western food” choice page too – essentially deep fried whatever. Much to Mr Fussiest’s pleasure, this includes “Mcdonald’s style” nuggets and chips in almost every restaurtant in Phuket (that invariable costs twice as much as local dishes).
Thai cuisine can be quite spicy, but there are some milder dishes that fussy children could eat. Here are some examples:
- Plain steamed rice: if you can at least get rice past their lips, this really is the ultimate fallback dish as every restaurant serves plain steamed rice!
- Pad See Ew: stir-fried wide rice noodles with soy sauce, egg, and vegetables such as broccoli or carrots – you can try asking them to hold off on a particular vegetable they hate (looking at you anti-green kids)
- Fried Rice: stir-fried rice with egg, vegetables, and your choice of meat (such as chicken or shrimp)
- Chicken Satay: grilled marinated chicken skewers served with peanut sauce and cucumber relish
- Spring Rolls:– crispy fried rolls stuffed with vegetables, noodles, and your choice of meat (such as chicken or shrimp)
- Tom Kha Gai: creamy coconut soup with chicken, lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaves
- Massaman Curry: mild and sweet curry with potatoes, peanuts, and optionally a meat can be added (usually chicken or beef), a great ‘beginners curry’
- Fried Chicken Wings: crispy fried chicken wings with a sweet and sour dipping sauce
- Grilled Pork on Skewers: marinated pork grilled on skewers, served with a dipping sauce
- Mango Sticky Rice: sweet and sticky rice topped with fresh mango and coconut milk
- Fruit Smoothies: blended fruit drinks made with fresh fruit, ice, and sweetened condensed milk
As always, it’s a good idea to check with the restaurant if you have any concerns about the spiciness or ingredients of a dish. You want “Mai pet” – not spicy, unless they’re brave then you can try “Pet nit noy” – a little spicy.
And ketchup is just “ketchup” – universally understood kids condiement for hiding the underlying flavour of just about anything!!
Further Tips For Travelling With A Fussy Eater in South East Asia
We found during our travels in Cambodia and Vietnam, we faced a similar struggles to Thailand. Extracted from my original article but with a Thai twist, bear these pointers in mind when travelling in south-east Asia with a fussy eater:
- They can survive on snacks: Whilst not a long term survival tactic for a fussy eater, you’ll be surprised just how long they can live off dry biscuits and a few of their snack staples -you may want to bring them from home if they’re THAT fussy – or seek out some of the western-style supermarkets in Phuket.
- Stay places with self catring facilities: Whilst you don’t want to dine in at every meal, we’ve certainly found having access to a kitchen or kitchenette every few days when we travel not only saves us on dining out costs, but means we can cook our fussy one the plain, boring meals he craves every now and then. Can you hire a villa or stay at a hotel villa in Phuket to allow this option?
- Explain your dining needs to the waiters/chef: If your child only eats that one thing for breakfast, for example, there’s no harm speaking to staff if there’s something they can whip up just for your fussy little one in the kitchen. Especially staying in high-end resorts we’ve found no request is too much for the very accomodating staff.
- Raid the breakfast buffet: On the same note, we know breakfast is about the only meal we don’t need to fight over. If you’re staying somewhere with a buffet spread, grab an extra piece of fruit or crossiant to take out in your day bag; if lunch choices don’t appeal, at least you ahve something to fall back on.
- Rotate turns who gets to pick your dining spot: If there’s only one in your groups who stuggles with picking anything, let them have a say; you don’t need to seek out fries and fast food every meal, but when its the fussy ones choice in a rota, let them feel empowered to make that decision.
- Make new food fun: consider taking your kids to a Thai cooking class. Whilst they may still shy away from trying the spoils, it will familiarsie them with the food and ingredients, building their knowledge and confidence around different foods.
- Take supplements: There’s a high chance if your child is a super picky eater you’ve already taken them to a paedatrician and dietician; they could well suggest the use of supplements such as iron, calcium or Omega 3. Especially if you’ll be travelling for more than a week or two vacation, you will want to consider supplementing a very bland diet of rice/chips with something more substantial.
What if The Fussy Eater is A Grown Up
We all have that one grown up friend or family member who is fussy too, right?
Thai cuisine is known for its bold flavors and spices, but rest assured, not every dish in Phuket is spicy, nor must you resort to “Western foods” and restaurants to satisfy everyone. If you are after a more “bland” Thai dish, try:
- Pad See Ew: A stir-fry dish made with wide rice noodles, soy sauce, and vegetables such as Chinese broccoli and egg. It’s a mild and savory dish that is similar to Chinese-style stir-fries.
- Gaeng Jued: A clear and mild soup made with chicken or tofu, vegetables, and glass noodles. It’s a light and refreshing dish that is perfect for those who prefer mild flavors.
- Pad Thai Jay: A vegetarian version of the popular Pad Thai dish, made with tofu, vegetables, and rice noodles. It’s a mild and slightly sweet dish that is great for those who prefer less spicy flavors.
- Tom Kha Gai: A coconut milk-based soup with chicken, lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaves. It’s a mild and creamy soup with a slightly tangy flavor that is perfect for those who prefer less spicy dishes.
- Kai Med Ma Muang: A stir-fry dish made with chicken, cashew nuts, vegetables, and a mild sauce. It’s a slightly sweet and nutty dish that is perfect for those who prefer mild and simple flavors.
These mild Thai dishes are great options for unadventurous eaters who want to try Thai cuisine without being overwhelmed by strong flavours or spices.
We’d love to hear how you get on with your fussy eaters in Thailand, what have been your “winner dishes”, and how have you helped your unadventurous friends and family tempt their taste buds?
© Mama Loves Phuket